Sometimes things work out…

All I can say is we just never know where we are going to end up. We have no real control over anything. All we can do is make plans and have hope that things will be okay. For  the last two years  the one thing I had wanted so much to do was to ride my horse again. It wasn’t  a lofty goal really but one that seemed to be unattainable to me not long ago. I didn’t want to give up the hope that one day I would ride again…..but for a while it was iffy…

Two years ago I thought I would never be able to do many activities again let alone ride a horse. My only goal then was trying to find someone to fix the pain I was in. That was a battle unto itself but I did not want to give up- because to do so left me in a very dire situation. One that I could not accept.

June 2016 was a start of an intense pain drama that was caused by breast cancer treatments. The pain had been an issue since my surgery in October of 2013. I had sought help for it with no luck and then it really  reared its ugly head in May 2016 leaving me bedridden for much of the next year. It was hell trying to find the a doctor who would listen to me and not send me away with a shake of the head. They either had no idea what was wrong with me or they thought I was nuts. But finally I found a surgeon who listened.

Today, three surgeries later. I am not that woman stuck all day and night in bed anymore- but I still live in chronic pain. But the levels I am managing- and there may be more surgery in my future. I am left with a disabled arm that I cant use fully and overuse causes pain. Sometimes I don’t know what that overuse is. But I just try to dance with it- sometimes I am in the lead and sometimes the pain is.

I have been hell bent on doing more living- I have always been a physically active person and I missed the mental boost such activity gave me. So many things I could not do. Some because of the limits of my arm and some activities were contra-indicated by my surgeon- one being horse back riding. It was a total bummer to hear this but I temporarily shelved that disappointment and sought another activity .  I bought a kayak with pedals so I could go out in the bay near our beach house. The feeling of independence being on the water propelling myself was intense and important in my recovery. I bought a bike. I began to walk more. I can do limited exercises in the gym.  But I was really missing the one activity I was told not to do—ride my horse.

In the summer of 2017 I was still in enough pain that I was not sure I could ride and on enough drugs I was not sure I should ride. But one day that summer  on a whim Kevin and I tacked up my horse Harley . He accepted the saddle and bridle so well  that I decided to get on and have Kevin lead me around the dry lot. I knew the surgeon had not been keen on my riding but I wanted to be in the saddle. It was just a pony ride but it was the kick I needed – I set a firm goal – I would  ride my horse again. But there were still obstacles to overcome.

I didn’t think it would take another year before I was able to ride again. I had another surgery in November of 2017 to hopefully further reduce my pain. I would say the result have been pretty good. I am off opiates but still need nerve pain medications. . I have pain flares more often than I would like. But I am doing more. The surgery itself – which was fat grafting -had a longer than expected recovery time.

Every time I went to see my nerve surgeon – Dr. Williams- I would tell him that I wanted to ride my horse.  HIs concern was that my arm would be yanked forward if the horse pulled the reins forward suddenly- and this does happen. This can cause more damage to my arm. Also there is the risk of falling off but I think in my case the real concern was with the yanking of my arm. So I wanted to rectify that. How to keep that from happening. There had to be a way . Maybe I would ride one armed. I began to look into that as an option.

Then sometime this past spring my farrier came. I was telling her my plan to try ride again. I explained my concerns of riding with two arms and one getting yanked and I was also becoming nervous about not being strong enough to ride using only one arm (my horse is also neck reined) if my horse pulled suddenly. She told me to get a Daisy Rein. I had no idea what they were but it turns out they are used often for young riders. The rein hooks onto the saddle and also to the bridle and that keep the horse from pulling his head down. Maybe it would work for this old rider!

I saw my surgeon again in July and explained how much I wanted to ride and told him about the rein. He never did give me his blessing but he told me if I did ride I needed to send him photos after I was safely off.  So that to me was an ok to go ahead.

My plan was to move slowly into riding my horse Harley beginning in early August- but life threw us a loop as we suddenly  lost Harleys companion a- our beloved Arab mare -Airy to colic. It was a tough loss on all of us and I again shelved trying to ride. This time more for Harley than for me. I knew it was a stressful time for a horse when there are changes like that adding me riding him after such a long time off might add to the stress – and we wanted another companion for Harley so the focus shifted on that. It took some time but we now have Hank and Yukon here. Hank belongs to our neighbor and Yukon is our Guardian horse form a local rescue.

One  day a few weeks ago  I went out to the barn to feed the horses and our neighbor was bringing Hank back from a ride. I began to feel that envy. That yearning to ride my horse. I really felt it was now or never so I began to get Harley tacked up. It is a bit of a chore for me to get it on while trying to limit the use of my arm but I was able to do it with Kevins help.

Before long I told Kevin I wanted another pony ride. I have to use a step to mount now to get on- it allows me to not use my arm too much.  I got up and settled – feet in stirrups and I was holding both reins because we put the daisy rein on to give that a try too. He tolerated it well and best of all it worked! He couldn’t pull very far so no yanking of my arm.  After a bit, I asked Kevin to let me go and and I took a deep breathe in and let it out and off I went.  I maneuvered Harley around the dry lot for a while..at a walk.. nothing fast. He did very well – and we then called it a day. Best to end on a good note when working with a horse. And I was not ready to ride in the fields yet. But it didn’t take much time for me to be ready! So much for slow starts.

Since that day I have ridden twice out in the fields. The last time – this past Saturday- I was able to tack up on my own. I have learned to yank the saddle out of my locker with one arm and I can toss it up on his back with one arm too.  It was very freeing to be able to do this on my own.

I also can ride with one arm so I switch from using two hands on the reins to one. It turns out my arms are in a “safe” position so I don’t think I will get a pain flare if I am careful – but again it is that dance i mentioned above. That day I was in the lead. Dismounting is a bit of a challenge. I now lower the stirrup iron and dismount on the  right which is the opposite side we proper English riders are taught to do.

Obstacles aside I can’t begin to explain the mental effect being able to ride again gives me. It is something I have needed. It didn’t feel like it had been two years since I had ridden solo. It was as if no time went by at all. I felt right at home in the saddle. I am so lucky to have the horse that I have. Some horses may have been too much for me after not being ridden for so long. Harley is a true champ. We have a bond.

My goal is to ride twice a week for now. I will have to be flexible on this as well as I live my life around things we have planned – social visits, traveling, and doctors visits. So I often curb any physical exercise for a couple days prior to doing these things because I don’t want to have a flare up of pain which may require me to cancel the plans.

But that is life as I live it now. I accept it. You just never know where you will end up…right now for me I ended up back in the saddle. How lucky I am….

….And Dr Williams has been sent a photo..with more to come…

Geldings finding balance

Yukon Sticking his tongue out at me? I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Note – Gelding is a male horse that has been castrated- making them no longer stallions. Typically Geldings can be kept together. Stallions are often turned out alone – maybe some are turned out together but i have never seen it. I think that would lead to fighting. I have three Geldings living here.

Mare- female horse

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Once again this human is learning about horses and how they interact. Horses will teach us a lot…it will never stop. When Airy and Harley lived here we were very used to that dynamic of the two of them together. They ate their grain side by side. They shared a stall. Airy was the boss as many mares are when they are turned out with geldings. We were very comfortable with the routine with the two of them. After she died we knew we were going to add at tleast one new horse so Harley had a buddy.

I knew the dynamic would change and we would have to learn how the horses interacted, what their needs were and we would have to determine a new routine based on the dynamic between the new horse – and now its a dynamic of three horses since we also have my neigbors horse Hank here.

The arrival of Hank and his meeting Harley was very easy and I think I had thought this would be the case with Yukon.

Yukon arrived a few weeks ago with little fanfare. His arrival was uneventful. The truck and big trailer that was hauling Yukon pulled down our driveway and turn around and popped open the gate and out Yukon walked. Head up ears perked. “Where am I?”

We put him in one of our

Getting off the trailer with Sara the Days End Farm trainer

pastures and the current horse residents – Hank and Harley- began the dance of meeting by getting to know each other over the fence. I spent time watching all of the horses reactions.

Hank and Harley checking out Yukon.

Right off I could tell Yukon wanted to be top horse. He spent time nipping Harley – the current herd leader- from over the fence. Harley is my horse and we added Yukon so Harley could have a friend as we lost our mare Airy suddenly in August.

Hank had a few little pushing matches with Yukon over the fence but Hank is much smaller than Yukon and Hank is much different in personality then Yukon is.

Hank didn’t want to challenge Yukon at all and hung back from the fence more often than Harley did.

Over the first few days I spent some time with Yukon out in the field. I wanted some bonding time just he and I. It was a hot week when he arrived and he spent time back in the trees that line the property on one side. Hank did the same when he came.

I wandered out there with Yukon and we sat under the trees for a bit. He kept trying to chase off our barn cat Ziggy. He definitley has a bossy side and I think he is testing the waters. He;s a big horse 15.3 hands. Hands are measured at the withers of a horse- thats sits where the neck meets the back. So Yukon is 5’3″ to the withers and he has a very long neck making him oh so tall when he holds his head high. His body is very long as well. Harley is the same amount of hands but the rest of him just ins’t the size of Yukon.

Looking at the barn from the edge of the pasture. Oh and Yukon’s long back is in the photo too

Temperment wise Yukon is pretty good with humans. As I visited with him the field I was able to lean against him and take some photos over his back. He is nudgy about treats and loves attention. In many ways he reminds me of harley.

Speaking of Harley – I was under the impression that he would try to maintain his head of household status when we let them all be together. I wasn’t off on that. He was that way at first. But it turns out he was bossy over the fence but not once they met face to face.

We decided to introduce all of the horses a few days before we went out of town. I hoped that some routine would be established with feeding and such after they were together a few days.

When we put the together all the horses met up in the pasture and sniffed one another and there wasnt much fanfare. They began to graze near each other and that went on for a bit. I thought that was that. But after about half an hour Harley decided that Hank and Yukon could not be near eachother and he bagan this odd weaving between the two of them . I guess he didn’t want to give up his friend. (Hold on loosely Harley…Hold on loosley). That behavior went on for a while and then Harley began the hazing process by not allowing Yukon too close to the overhang part of the barn.

Here Harley performs his weaving ritual!:

But soon the tables turned and Yukon began to haze Harley. He didnt have to do much- just tip his ears back and drop his head – which is a sign from one horse to another – to move.

Hank has been kind of in the middle of all this. He isnt vying to be top horse. He just wants to be friends with both guys. It seems that he is -though both Harley and Yukon boss Hank around but he doesnt seem to mind. The conflict seems to be between Yukon and Harley.

When we left last Monday for the beach it seemed like things were getting more settled. I figured Yukon won for top horse.  What I realize now is that these things take time. Since i have gotten home I see that some things are better and other things need to be settled .

One moment Yukon and harley will be hanging out in the dry lot next to eachother and the next Yukon won’t let harley under the barn overhang. He tries to claim all the hay piles for himself.

I know Yukons feeding regime is differet now, he had been fed in a closed stall- we do lock him up for his grain but have been letting him out after he finishes to allow him to share hay with the other horses.

Yukon has naviclular issues which means he has painful feet and being stalled can make him stiff so we havent wanted to stall him for too long. – I think his lack of manners when it comes to sharing hay is likley due to his being fed in a stall and not having to share his hay – and i think he thinks that all the hay that is put down is his.

One thing I feel is that the horses have to work these things out between themselves but when there are humans around them a horse cannot behave in a wiley manner and get all the other horses riled up.  Horses moving quiclky to avoid eachother and then a human being in that mix is very dangerous. So I will not allow them to behave crazily if we are working around them.

I have had to stand by while they are eating and not allow him to push another horse off the hay piles. Some posturing is normal but he cant have all the hay for himself. And he cant have the entire overhang to either especially in torrential rain. And we’ve had a lot of that lately.

I think it will take me a while to get used to having three horses. There is more crowding. More poop. More feeding. The good thing is we do have Austin -Hanks owner- who rotates in and helps with the care. Huge for me since I’m unable to do many of the chores now.

I am enjoying learning more about horse behavior. I know they will settle in- it just takes more time in some instances.  I will try to stay out of their posturing as much as possible – I know they will figure it out.

Yukon is a very nice horse. I think he just needs to settle in some.  Learn he doesnt have to own all the hay and know he will get lots of attention.

Since I began this post last week – yes last week (I can’t seem to find time to sit and write) – things have settled down more. I am pleased with this. It’s still a quite a frenzy at feeding time. I’m getting used to it.

I realize now how easy it really was to care for Harley and Airy. Three geldings together is different but fun. I’m pretty sure they will be quite the crew.

I’m sure it will make for some funny stories.

Did I mention Yukon is big?

This little surprise

So we didn’t get our new guardian horse Yukon yet. He comes to us next Monday. He wouldn’t load last week on the trailer we borrowed. Maybe he was too big. Maybe just a bit afraid. It had been a while since he had been on a trailer but he would not get on. So he is still at Days End.

So the rescue is bringing him to us next Monday. I think this will work out well. I am very grateful to Days End for the transport.

Harley has been doing fine. And here’s the surprise! Harley has a friend. Yep he got a buddy already. And he will have Yukon too!

As luck would have it our neighbor Austin decided he wanted to get a horse so he can do roping. Like in roping calves in a rodeo. Currently , Austin is a bull-rider. Yep a real cowboy and his sweet wife live right next door . They are the owners of the donkeys that I have posted photos of from time to time.

Austin isn’t retiring from riding bulls right now but I think he sees at some point his body may get too beaten up and it might be time to change to some other rodeo event.

So he decided to get a horse. He had a pony growing up. I saw a photo – so cute. They were buddies. His pony lived quite a long time. So Austin knows equines. So his getting this horse wasn’t jumping in to something he doesn’t know. And he rides giant bulls I don’t think any horse will intimidate him.

So anyway knowing that Harley was alone he asked us if he could keep an 8 yr old quarter horse on our property for a while. He needs to build some fencing on his land.

I knew Yukon was coming and I have never had more than two horses in our pasture. Both Harley and Airy are easy keepers. Which often -and in our case does – mean that they get very fat on grass. Grass can be harmful to horses like this so we only let them graze every other day or we use grazing muzzles which limit their grass intake. We always seem to have lots of grass and with Austin fencing in his pasture area there will be enough if we need to share.

So we agreed to have his horse here and we worked out the details and probably will tweak them every so often -and this past Sunday Mojo (now named Hank ) arrived.

Harley was very excited. He whinnied and pranced when he saw Hank for the first time. We have photos but It was dark.

We kept them apart for a couple nights. They nuzzled over the fence. Got to know each other a little. When Austin took Hank out for a ride on Hanks first full day here , Harley called to Hank and he called back. Buddies in the making.

When we put them together it was non-eventful. No kicking or biting. But I think I thought there would be no establishing for position because they got along so well over the fence. But of course I was wrong. Harley decided he needed to establish he was boss. So he pinned his ears as Hank approached him. Hank got the message and stayed away. They would graze nearish to eachother but if Hank got too close Harley would pin the ears back take a step and Hank would walk away.

This is when they first meet. Keeping a good distance but grazing calmly.

Moving closer. Notice the “dance” :

After a while , Hank came in to explore the paddock. I saw him sniffing the ground and checking out the trough and the stalls. Harley who was loading in a stall made sure Hank knew he wasn’t welcome in his stall right then. Come on Harley stop being a snob I thought.

Harley was hazing Hank and it seems mean but it’s what horses do. He might want a companion but they have to do their horse dance. Set the tone for their relationship. And after Harley was bossed around by Airy for so long I am not shocked Harley wants to be the boss now and Hank isn’t challenging that it seems.

Hank is the more spry one. Younger and a better mover but he is also one relaxed horse. Bombproof so far under saddle and very chilled out on the ground. So he let Harley do his thing and he seems ok with his place in this small herd.

Here is how calm this horse is. A ride in the corn(video by Austin Gosnell).

At one point Hank stood alone under the line of pine trees way out on the edge of our field. I came out to the paddock to check on them. I was hoping they would be hanging together. But Hank wasn’t there in the paddock so I walked into the pasture and looked all around and finally I spotted Hank hanging in the shadows of those trees. Maybe he wasn’t sure what he should do with Harley and his attitude.

I walked back to the barn and I looked at Harley who had ambled out of his stall to see what I was looking at way out in that field.

I said “Harley you have alienated your new friend and now he’s out there all by himself.”

And I looked at Harley and he stared out in the field – we couldn’t see Hank from there but I bet Harley could smell him. And what did Harley do? He called to Hank. I was like dang Anne he understood your scolding- wink wink.

Harley got no answer from Hank so he walked into the field and called again. Soon Hank was seen slowly walking towards Harley and what does that big oaf do? Decides to give Hank a run around. Harley head down trots toward Hank and Hank trots away from him. It’s a horse thing. Again it’s seems anti-social but it actually establishes the social hierarchy of a herd. Harley is not fast so it was funny. But I thought that may have been the final haze ritual Because once that runaround was completed they both began to graze much closer together.

That afternoon we had to head out of town for a few days to take my sons to college so we left Austin to care for the horses. Happily the next morning he reported that they were together and massaging each other. I’m not sure what that looked like but ok!

Later in the evening Austin couldn’t find Hank in the paddock and was surprised to see he had been invited into Harley’s stall. Just like he and Airy used to be. Watch the video by Austin Gosnell.

Now all this bliss will be shaken up on Monday with the arrival of Yukon. So that will be another story unto itself.

Hopefully three will be ok and not a crowd. Yukon is big and confident but lame (as in bad feet) so it will be interesting to see how it all flushes out.

More to come on that….

Here are some more photos of Hank (and family). Courtesy of the Gosnell’s.

Clarissa and Hank

Hank eating hay

Austin the bull rider and Hank

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Ziggy. The awesome cat.

Meet Yukon

Yukon

Update – ok so after many attempts Yukon wouldn’t get in the trailer. A storm was coming in and I’m sure he sensed that before the humans did. So he is now scheduled to be brought to us her on the 28th – after we drop the human boys at college.

Stay tuned!

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Today we pick up Yukon. (Rescheduled for aug 28). He’s a 19 year old quarter horse from Days End Farm Horse Rescue. Days End is a well know rescue in Maryland and probably in the Mid -Atlantic and now they will become nationally known because of a partnership they have with a non-profit whose job it is to spread the word about horses in need of homes -esp companion horses -which are horses that can no longer be ridden. There are many places for companion horses – like in our case we need a buddy for Harley.

Days End (DEFHR) has made national news from time to time for their rescue efforts after natural disaster like Katrina. When I go to their farms (they have two now bc of the sheer number of horses they are helping ) I always am amazed at the dedication of the staff there and the care they give the horses.

When we set out to meet Yukon last weekend we headed west towards WV into the beautiful hills just East of the Catoctins. We landed at the farm in Maryland which is shy of the WV line. It was pretty and clean and the horses – most of them companion horses- were well kept.

We walked back with Kelly who is a caretaker for these horses. It’s a big job and she does it well and with a smile on her face. She was thrilled to introduce us to Yukon who is a big chestnut gelding. He is immediately friendly and reminded me a lot of Harley. I love gelding because of their puppy dog like demeanor.

Yukon is a bit nudgy for treats as is Harley. Nothing we can’t handle. I’m told he likes to get in and out of gates first. Airy was like that- except she was last to come in off pasture. Grass was king to her. She loved that more than anything.

Yukon led well and was happy to stand in a grassy area and eat grass as we swatted away bugs.

Yukon has navicular issues which is a bone in the hoof of the horse. I won’t go into details as I’m still learning about it. But let’s just say he has sore feet and is on medication for it. I’m looking for supplements that can alleviate inflammation as well. He won’t be stalled like he is now. He will be free to walk around which is better for his foot pain. I think we will have to rake up rocks in the paddock as well. But the pasture will be a nice comfortable place for him.

So back out to Rohersville Maryland later today. He seems like he will be a great fit.

I’ll write more about him soon. I’m nervous and excited both.

Harley by the way is doing well. We keep telling him Yukon is coming ! More later….

Harley – who is Yukon?

Harley alone- maybe not for long…

Airy has been gone four days now. Things are quieter. Things still feel off.

Though he has quieted down a lot since Monday, Harley my Tennessee Walker was very upset the day we put Airy down. We had the vet img_5705give him a sedative and he saw Airy’s body. It didn’t settle him down too much. He pranced around the paddock calling to her. He got no answer. He was pushing up against the fencing trying to get to where he last saw her. I feared for his safety – I feared the fencing might give. So we opened the pasture gate- the one furthest away from her body and hoped he would graze.

He would run in and out of the pasture calling to her. Not gonna lie – my heart was breaking for Harley too. He was confused and stressed and I had no way to take it away. The first night was hard on everyone. My initial shock wore off and the dam of tears came flooding out. I could not stop crying. I cried for the loss and the trauma my horse went through leading to her death and I cried for my living horse who was calling periodically throughout the night for a friend who would never answer.

I could not sleep in my bed that first night. I took to the family room couch – it faces the front and side of the property and is furthest from our paddock. I couldn’t bare to hear Harley calling to her. I put earphones in and listened to the oceans waves and read my book and must have dozed for a few hours.  I woke at six and it was quiet. I hoped it would be a better day for Harley.

The truck came to take Airy’s body away. I could not stand to go out so my ever strong husband went.  Sadly Harley became very upset when he saw the truck. I could hear him from inside. There was no way to block his view and I am not sure he knew what was happening or if he just knew someone was near where he last saw his friend. When the truck pulled away Harley went on calling her.

I knew he was under duress and I wanted badly to help him. I had little I could do though. I went to the feed store and got some natural calming paste and I got some probiotics. In times of stress Probiotics are helpful to help alleviate ulcers. Thankfully Harley has been eating and drinking just fine.  I gave him half the paste in the tube and hoped it might help a little. I brushed him and pet him and talked to him.

Wednesday he was much more quiet. He called a couple times and was much more vocal at my approach to the barn. I have been watching him. And he mostly sticks to his stall. Thursday we opened the pasture gate closest to my neighbors horses and I was hoping he would feel some comfort in seeing them- if they venture out in this heat. I normally do night turn out in summer but now I will do whatever I can to make Harley less stressed.

We had six horses and two donkeys between four small farms on my side of the road. All of our pastures close together. Now only three of those horses remain as one of my neighbors lost two of her horses suddenly on the same day a few weeks ago. So it is a quieter place these days. I miss my neighbors horses too as I was “friends” with her equine boys.

Horses are natural herd animals and I feel they need companionship. That is not to say they can’t be alone – I have seen it before and even the vet said Harley may settle in and do fine as a lone horse. But would he miss having a buddy? I am not sure I should put the human term lonely onto an equine- do they get lonely? Is he grieving? I am not sure what it is but herd animals depend on each other for safety, companionship, and even to help keep the flies at bay (horse will stand near each other and swish their tails to keep the flies off each other!). There is a need there.

Since I can’t know what he feels because I am not a horse I can only go by my observations. I think Harley was confused and stressed that his companion was gone. If we had a third horse maybe I would not have seen the same level of stress. Horses do bond and I think when they are separated whether by one horse being moved to another farm, or herd, or through death it can cause stress. But something in Harley’s behavior leading up to Airy’s passing and after leads me to believe he knew it was a permanent parting. Horses may not understand death fully but I believe they feel something that lets them know that something more serious is up.

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Harley and Airy in the pasture

So I am sure Harley is confused- he’s always been in a herd. Maybe he is lonely or whatever a herd animal feels when it is now a herd of one. As the days move forward he will settle down and perhaps he could be ok as a lone horse but I am not sure it would be the best thing for him- and lets face it if I feel this way then it causes me stress so its not the best thing for me. Looking outside and seeing just one horse seems off to me.

So right after Airy died my concern shifted to Harley being alone. What were we going to do?  If Harley were being boarded with other horses or if we had a third i would not get another horse. Part of me doesn’t want another horse. There is the expense and there is the fact that physically I am not the same person I was when I bought my horses years ago. I have limited use of my one arm and at this point I can’t ride.  So I don’t want a horse that requires being ridden – if I can ride Harley again that would be so great but two needing to be ridden would be too much for me. We also considered having a boarder here. We could get some help maybe in exchange for board – but there is liability in this and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take that on.

I know there are tons and tons of horses out there in need of homes and I know there are plenty of horses just looking to be companions to other horses. Ones that can’t be ridden due to health issues or age. But I still don’t want to own one. The other day soon after Airy died I began my search to see if my needs for a horse could be met so I could meet Harley’s need for a companion. There are a vast number of horse rescues in Maryland but there is one in particular that I was pretty familiar with. I looked on their website – Days End Farm Horse Rescue  – and I saw what I was looking for – a guardian program! Ingenious really.

With the Guardian program a person take possession of the horse – typically these horses are not ridable but can be great companions “pasture pals” to other horses-  and Days End retains ownership of the horse. As guardian we would provide for all the horses needs but these expenses can be written off on the our taxes.  We could return the horse to the rescue if the need arose. This sounds like it could be a good fit for us.

Saturday we will go out to visit a prospective Guardian Program horse named Yukon. A quarter horse Gelding about 18 years old. Chestnut in color (coincidentally the same as Airy was). He is said to have a great temperament and gets along well with his current pasture mates.  We have to have a couple visits with him and one of the trainers at the rescue. If we all think he could be a fit for our farm then he will come here soon after.

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Harley and me- selfie

We need to restore some balance here. I am still grieving the sudden loss of my horse and that will ebb in time but life has to move on and the focus must be on the needs of the creatures that are still living here.

Maybe Yukon will be one of those creatures.  I will let you know how our meeting goes!

 

 

 

 

On the loss of a horse

 

 

Airy 2012

Arizon – or Airy – Arab – she was 26 years old. This is one of my favorite photos of her.

There is a time for everything

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance…..

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Authors Note- I want to thank every person who messaged me, commented on my Facebook post about Airy- your support and care means so much….. and thank you Kirsten W. for the muffins ❤

 

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This past Monday  I had plans to go out to Tractor Supply with my son Luke to grab some needed feed and bedding for the animals.  I was ready to go – purse on the counter- I was filling up my water cup..one of the ones that keep your water cool all day. It was a regular day. Then it wasn’t

We had returned from the beach the evening before. -we had been gone for almost a week. When we went down to the barn to check the horses  we found some things that were not done the way we would have wanted them. It seemed like our caretaker cut some corners. We fixed the mistakes. I put the horses out on pasture. They seemed fine- no worse for wear. We headed back to the house.

So back to Monday. Earlier in the morning Kevin brought the horses in and grained them and set out hay for them .  Later as I was readying to go to Tractor Supply and I was filling up that water cup  Kevin was looking out of the back slider at the barn. I asked him what he was looking at. I thought the cats. We have one elusive kitty we only see from a distance. Kevin said , “Airy was just rolling, then she got up and pooped but now she is down rolling again.”  For some reason my internal alarm went off. I just had a bad feeling. You just know your horses and mine will roll but they never roll get up and then go down right away to roll again. We needed to get down to the barn.

Our day just went from normal to super stressful in 30 seconds.

When I got to the barn Airy was down.  Sweating, covered in dust and mud. Her eyes were far away. We tried to get her up but couldn’t. I could see she was very bloated. Oh crap…

I said or maybe yelled “Call the vet – she has colic – hurry”. Kevin ran to get my phone in the house – neither of us grabbed ours as we went out the door. When Kevin went in Airy got up walked a ways. I could not get to her fast enough before she went down again. Rolling….

I should explain what it means when horse colics. I have heard colic as being called  a horse stomach ache – and I guess it is that because there is pain – but it can turn to a deadly situation when the intestines twist causing a blockage that can only be fixed through surgery. It is very painful even in a less serious case. Horses cant vomit- they have a one way in and out system.

Wikipedia describes colic as” abdominal pain, but it is a clinical sign rather than a diagnosis. The term colic can encompass all forms of gastrointestinal conditions which cause pain as well as other causes of abdominal pain not involving the gastrointestinal tract. The most common forms of colic are gastrointestinal in nature and are most often related to colonic disturbance. There are a variety of different causes of colic, some of which can prove fatal without surgical intervention.”

During signs of colic, I have been taught try to get a horse up and walk them around and not let the horse roll. As it can make the gut twist up (but I was told differently after the vet got there.). So we had to try to get her up. At one point -when Kevin ran in to grab the phone- I was holding the lead rope that connected to her halter and i was pulling on her with all my might (with my one good arm)as she lay on the ground trying to writhe from my grasp. I screamed “Stop you are going to kill yourself…stop stop! ” But somewhere inside I wondered if it was already too late. But I couldn’t go there. She had gotten colic maybe five years before this episode and we had the vet out and she was good as gold after they put a tube up her nose and put oil into her stomach. Oh and they gave her pain meds too. Surely they could get her straight again. But this time she seemed so much worse than before.

I was in utter panic inside but I was trying to keep my mind straight. I called the vet and tried to talk as Kevin and I worked on getting her up. If anything we wanted to move her from the hot sun. But if we could get her up we could get her walking.

Thankfully they said the vet was able to come right away but it would take time. We were able to get Airy up but she was not happy about it. We kept her walking in the shade and put wet towels on her. Kevin leading me following behind with a crop. I texted my neighbors to see if they had any pain meds. My neighbor, Nora, gave us oral Banamine- an NSAID.  I gave it to her as best I could and we kept walking and walking. My son Luke helped by bringing us water and watching for the vet. Airy is normally somewhat feisty and there was none of her spirit there as we walked on and on.

Walking and walking

We thought the banamine was working because she pooped and passed gas. Later we came to find out thats not a sign of improvement. She seemed to pick up her gait. But soon she was slow and hoping to be able to get down and roll.

It seemed like hours that we walked her around. It was likely only 30-40 minutes. The vet – Dr. Engle – pulled in and immediately he told us to stop making her walk.  Thats when I learned that we didnt need to make her walk and later I googled about it and found this.  Walking can be good but in other situations you are just tiring everyone out. How do you know when then to walk? In our case we all were exhausted. Now I know in her case it wasnt making a difference and now I know to stop walking a horse that is so tired.  I now feel very regretful that in her last minutes of life I was making her maybe more stressed. It hurts my heart.

After Dr. Engle gave Airy pain medicine by injection he then examined her and listened to her stomach sounds he said it was” quiet in there”. So he did a rectal exam and that is when he gave us the news I had not wanted to hear..maybe somewhere I knew what he was going to say but I had packed it away in some far reached area of my brain. He said her intestine was turned some. Not all the way. He didn’t look hopeful. I asked him the question. “Does that mean we have to put her down?”

“It looks that way…but we aren’t there quite yet” He said.  What options did we have? There was surgery  10k.  It doesn’t make sense on a 26 year old horse and he wasn’t recommending it.They also said they could find tumors during surgery and still she might not make it. I knew that wasn’t an option for us – for her.  I began to cry. I tried to hold i together but it wasn’t working.

Tubing Airy – I was in the stall with Harley.

We went on to talk a bit further about trying to stick a tube up her nose and send some mineral oil through her to see if that might help. This is what they did when she had colic before and it worked. So we decided to try this as a last ditch effort on saving her life. I stepped away to try to compose myself.  I went into the gym  which is attached to the barn and  our young friend Kirsten was there  – she was so sweet trying to comfort this very sad lady.  I grabbed kleenex. I headed back out.

My son Luke was running all over the place trying to help. Moving Harley out of the way, grabbing me more water. I can imagine how stressed he was. I could see it on his face. He felt for me and for the horse. Part of the time I didn’t even register he was there but then I would need him and he would be nearby. I am so thankful for him. And there is my husband – Kevin- who is always ready and willing to take on the hardest tasks form cleaning up the grossest of messes to leading a dying horse around in circles hoping she might recover so his wife wouldn’t be heartbroken. He is always amazing but in these situations he is stellar.

Time was standing still or it was my brain – I didn’t want to know what was going to happen next.

I stood with Harley in the stall hugging on his neck. I knew if Airy didn’t pull out of this colic and we put her down he would suffer too. Horses are herd animals and Airy and Harley were very bonded. I hurt for him.

After the vets (there were two of them here now- another showed up while I was somewhere in the barn) finished giving Airy her intubation of mineral oil I walked out and waited with them to see if she perked up. Kevin walked her around the paddock and I asked the vets what were we looking for with her. They said just any change in demeanor. Which mean she needed to perk way up. Her eyes were listless, her demeanor was not good.

I then began to ask the tougher questions because I knew we were at the end of a rope. I wasnt going to let her suffer any longer. What do we do with her body? How do you euthanize a horse? I got the answers as I watched this lovely beautiful animal struggle. She had been such a good horse. A companion to Harley and friend to us. It was my duty to not let her suffer any longer.

Kevin with Airy some years back.

…I had tried to ride Airy years ago. She was all Arab- proud and sleek.  She had a wonderful gait. Nice trot you could sit easily to. But we would get only so far in her training and she would spook or be “on her toes” too much and I became nervous to ride her- I feel off her once but I got back on but it scared me – I didn’t feel experienced enough to handle her –  and then I got Harley.   Airy’s training was put on the back burner. At that time the horses were boarded at Windsong Arabians not far from where we lived back then.  So sometimes I’d tack her up and ride but most often I rode Harley. Then in 2010 we moved them here to our farm and she became the pasture pal that we needed for Harley. I worked with her some while she was here but I never rode her – and I think she was just fine with that. She was the beauty in the field.

I think you know how the story ends here…once we saw no improvement in her demeanor and Dr. Engle did a rectal exam and found that he no longer could get  in as far as he had when he arrived which means things were not getting better and I could see that she continued to be in pain…I called time. It was her time. We took her out of the paddock to a place where she could lay down on grass – out of Harley’s site – and so the person who would pick up her remains could get to her easily.  She did lay down on her own which was better I think. She took a bite of grass- how fitting- she loved her grass. They gave her more sedative and I said my goodbyes. But there are no words that seem enough. I told her it was ok to go. She was a good girl. But the words are flat… but the hearts… they connect. She knew what I felt.

I left Kevin with her and I went into the gym. I wasn’t sure I could see her slip away. I didn’t want to see her if she was afraid…I didn’t want to convey any of my distress to her in what should be a peaceful passing for her. After she was gone I went to her. I knew her spirit was gone – I could feel that-but I pet and kissed her a final time.  She still had some grass in her mouth.We covered her with a sheet and towels and Kevin snipped some of her tail hair for me to keep. She had the most beautiful mane and tail.

The vet checked out Harley as he was distressed even though he couldn’t see Airy. They gave him a sedative. They led him over to see her.  They hoped it might help him to see her. He sniffed her body and then began eating grass. They led him back. Later he began to call for her….that has been hard.

In the end it is a blessing that we can be merciful to our animals. We can hasten their deaths- we can keep them from suffering. We have to make hard choices. In this case the choice was clear…but it was hard.  As my friend Jon Katz writes often- we have to be stewards to our animals.

A farm has a heartbeat of its own made up of all the beings that live here and for the moment the heartbeat is off.  Airy’s death doesn’t just make me sad it effects my other horse as well – which I will write about later. Everything just feels off. One less horse to feed. One less soul to connect with. There is an emptiness- I feel it..Kevin does too.

I am crying my tears now- many of them. My heart hurts but it will heal. I have my regrets. Why did I let her out into the pasture that night when we got back?  Did anything that was off from when the caretakers were here effect this? Should I have been on the lookout for more signs she wasn’t right? She seemed good Sunday night.  Did she just eat too much grass? But hindsight won’t help. She is gone. I just have to process this and grieve. The vet said this is just a case of bad luck. Her age- 26- the fact she had colic before- all were things against her. Dr. Engle did not want me to beat myself up.

After Airy died, Kevin came into the gym and he told me she was gone. We both cried a bit but then he showed me a picture. It was of a beautiful butterfly on Airy’s leg. He told me the butterfly was there through the entire process of her being euthanized. The vet said he had seen spirits leave before but never through a butterfly.

Well Miss Airy you flew away on butterfly wings….Fly free girl … and thank you….it was wonderful knowing you….

 

 

Being part of the farm again. 

For the last two days I have been able to go out and work a bit on our little farm. This is such a big deal for me. I have been unable to do anything for months because of the pain I had. “Had”being a key word. I amstill not pain free after the surgery but I’m able to be part of life again. That’s so huge.  I can’t do that many things physically out at the barn yet but I can do a little and I can give orders! 

It felt good being part of things again. It’s hard to put into words the things I feel right now. I’m such a mix of emotions all the time. But feeling like a normal human again at least some of the time is really awesome.  

I don’t have the stamina yet that I want but it will come. If I do too much I have pain.  I still have some of the pain I hoped would be gone as a result of surgery-but it comes when I do certain things which leaves me with hope that as I gain more mobility with my arm that some of these issues might go. And I’m told it may take a year to heal fully. There is a chance that some of the nerves that were bothered for so long may not heal 100%.  But I’m hoping for the very best outcome. 

But that’s just stuff I don’t want to worry about now. I enjoyed today -being outside with my animals. Just being part of the world again. I came back in before the gale force winds we are supposed to get began. I think it’s blowing away our Indian summer. I’m not looking forward to winter really I’m not a fan of the cold but I’ll not let that keep from being part of my little farm. I’m thankful I’ll be able to go out and enjoy the season. 

I took a number of photos today of basic farm happenings. But to me they are such a gift to be able to be part of such a place. The sights,the sounds, and the smells of a farm. Somehow I feel like farms are part of my soul. There is an amazing comfort for me when I’m on any farm.  I feel it’s where I’m supposed to be.  Well here and the beach and in nature.  I have a large soul I suppose! I’m lucky to have found my places where I can find my center. Some people search a long time for that. 

Hope you enjoy today’s farm photo s. 

Airy my mare

harley my gelding and the horse i ride.

asking for a treat!

the storage area pf our barn . it geta quite a collection of junk and needs to be tidied up periodically

looking out on the back forty. our land is only tonthe fence but i love backing up to preservation land!

molting hen. she is on her way to new feathers.

me standing on manure pile. sums up my life of late!

new 100 gallon water trough w heater!

inside looking out.